After claiming the 2016 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Title and event win in Portugal on October 24, Hawaii’s newly crowned World Champion John John Florence is home to compete in all three events of the 34th Annual Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
The series of events runs from November 12 – December 20. and Florence, 24, will be looking for a continuation of his recently unstoppable form heading into the Hawaiian winter of events. Florence has previously claimed the esteemed Vans Triple Crown title in 2013 and 2011 and looks extremely polished after his most successful campaign in six years on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour.
2011 marked a winning year for Florence, as he also took the event victory at the Vans World Cup, the second gem of the Vans Triple Crown. He has yet to claim a win at the Hawaiian Pro in Haleiwa however, and the highly coveted Billabong Pipe Masters title still eludes him as well.
The first two events of the series are the highest rated on the WSL International Qualifying Series (QS) tour and the final stops for surfers looking to complete their year-end rankings with a solid result. The Billabong Pipe Masters concludes the WSL Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, is the third gem of the Vans Triple Crown, and happens to be Florence’s backyard break. The industry is positioned to witness what could be the most historical year ever for Hawaii surfing during the 2016 Vans Triple Crown.
Florence has returned the world title to Hawaiian soil after a twelve-year hiatus since the late Andy Irons won it in 2004. The win comes at a pivotal turning point for Hawaii surfing, as the WSL region has recently opened doors on a brick and mortar building and accomplished its first year under new leadership. Jodi Wilmott, General Manager of WSL Hawaii/Tahiti Nui and Executive Director of the Vans Triple Crown has taken the region to new heights and sees John John’s win as the beginning of a new era for professional surfing in Hawaii.
Destined for greatness, Florence, was the youngest competitor ever to compete in the Vans Triple Crown at the age of 13 in 2005.
The Hawaiian Pro QS10,000 is in its 32nd year of running this November and kick starts the surf series at Haleiwa Ali‘i Beach Park. Noted as a WSL specialty event, the Vans Triple Crown will determine seven winners over a span of 39 days and boasts a total prize purse of more than $1.1 million.
2016 also marks 40 years of the professional world surfing tour, which began in Hawaii in 1976 by surfing visionaries Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick. Over the last four decades, the world tour has grown and spread around the globe to now encompass eleven tour stops, eight different countries and five continents.
This year will see the highly anticipated arrival of homegrown hero and native Hawaiian surfer Ezekiel Lau, who returns to Oahu after competing in Brazil for a QS6,000 and a year of international events. In strong contention to join the elite 32 surfers on the 2017 Championship Tour (CT), a good result at the Hawaiian Pro could mean a monumental leap in Lau’s professional career. After a third place finish in the 2015 Hawaiian Pro, Zeke is focused on finding another good result at the challenging Vans Triple Crown venue.
“Being able to compete in front of a home crowd is always a great feeling,” said Lau. “The energy this time of year is electrifying. I’m looking to embrace it all and enjoy every second of it.”
Lau has been laser focused on the QS tour for four consecutive years and recently placed runner up at the Azores Airlines Pro QS6,000 for a significant bump up in ratings points.
“My ultimate goal is to win,” continued Lau. “That’s my goal every time I put on a jersey. The only thing that changes is that I sleep in my own bed and wake up and compete in my backyard.”
Of the 128-man field confirmed for the Hawaiian Pro, 21 of the world’s best surfers will compete from the CT, including world No. 3 Jordy Smith (ZAF) and No. 4 Matt Wilkinson (AUS).
Other local contenders like Maui’s Dusty Payne (2014 Hawaiian Pro winner) and Kauai’s Sebastian Zietz (2012 Hawaiian Pro winner) will be familiar faces among the international crowd, while Italian standout Leonardo Fioravanti will put his progressive surfing to the test and defending event winner Wade Carmichael (AUS) will work to regain a second title.
Succeeding the Hawaiian Pro is the Vans World Cup of Surfing (November 24 – December 6) at Sunset Beach, followed by the Billabong Pipe Masters (December 8 – 20), which concludes both the CT and Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The infamous surfing trilogy highlights Hawaii’s most revered waves but more importantly, recognizes the athletes who risk it all to be the best.
The 2015 Billabong Pipe Masters drew the largest American surf audience ever with 1 million+ fans watching live, many who used the WSL app, which is on track for its 2 millionth download by the end of the Hawaii leg, 2016.